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  • Cited by 3
  • Print publication year: 2001
  • Online publication date: May 2010

5 - Cerebellar ataxia

from PART I - CLINICAL MANIFESTATIONS

Summary

Introduction

Definitions

The term ‘ataxia’ (Greek, a- (= negative article) + taxi (= order), (‘lack of order’) is commonly used synonymously with incoordination (Dow & Moruzzi, 1958; Gilman et al., 1981; Timmann & Diener, 1998). Ataxia is the most important sign of cerebellar disease. Cerebellar ataxia is defined as lack of accuracy or coordination of movement which is not due to paresis, alteration in tone, loss of postural sense or the presence of involuntary movements (DeJong, 1979). Cerebellar ataxia relates to motor dysfunctions of the limbs, trunk, eyes, and bulbar musculature. Ataxia of gait refers to incoordination of walking, which might be so severe that the patient cannot walk (abasia). Postural ataxia refers to ataxia of stance and sitting and includes truncal ataxia.The patient may be unable to sit or stand without support (astasia). Limb ataxia refers to incoordination of limb movements and ataxia of speech to cerebellar dysarthia.

Cerebellar disease results in postural and limb tremor. There may be a rhythmic tremor of the body that can evolve into a severe titubation. Limb tremor occurs as a kinetic and to a lesser extent static tremor. Kinetic tremor occurs as an oscillatory movement when the subject initiates a movement of the limb or during the course of moving the limb. The tremor becomes more prominent as the moving limb approaches a target (intention tremor). Powerful, but brief involuntary movements at the beginning of the movement are due to intention myoclonus, not tremor, and occur in diseases involving the dentate nucleus or the superior cerebellar peduncle.

Neurological findings in cerebellar disease

Patients with cerebellar disorders walk with a wide-based, staggering gait, making it seem as if they were intoxicated by alcohol.